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÷÷ACTS 27








Paul Sails for Rome The Voyage to Rome The Voyage to Malta Paul Sails for Rome The Departure for Rome
27:1-8 27:1-8 27:1-8 27:1-6 27:1-3
Paul's Warning Ignored 27:7-8 27:7-8
27:9-12 27:9-12 27:9-12 27:9-12 27:9-12
The Storm at Sea In the Tempest Storm at Sea Storm and Shipwreck
27:13-20 27:13-38 27:13-20 27:13-20 27:13-20
27:21-26 27:21-26 27:21-26 27:21-26
27:27-32 27:27-32 27:27-32 27:27-32
27:33-38 27:33-38 27:33-38 27:33-38
The Shipwreck Shipwrecked on Malta The Shipwreck
27:39-44 27:39-44 27:39-44 27:39-41 27:39-41
27:42-44 27:42-44

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.


A. Luke had a vast knowledge, covering sailing (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 3, p. 456, says Luke used nine compounds with pleō, to sail) as well as literature, medicine, history and theology. Here is a list of technical, nautical terms and phrases

1. sailed (cf. Acts 13:4; 14:26; 20:15;27:1)

2. under the shelter of (cf. Acts 27:4,7)

3. weighed anchor (cf. Acts 27:13)

4. euraquilo (cf. Acts 27:14)

5. face the wind (cf. Acts 27:15)

6. running under the shelter of (cf. Acts 27:16)

7. undergirding (cf. Acts 27:17)

8. sea anchor (skeuos, cf. Acts 27: 17

9. ship's tackle (skeuēn, cf. Acts 27:19)

10. soundings (cf. Acts 27:28 [twice])

11. athoms (cf. Acts 27:28 [twice])

12. four anchors from the stern (cf. Acts 27:29,40)

13. the ropes of the rudders (cf. Acts 27:40)

14. hoisting the foresail to the wind (cf. Acts 27:40)

15. tacking (MSS P74, א, A, cf. Acts 28:13)


B. One older book that has been such a help to commentators is James Smith's The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul, 1848.


C. This trip to Rome was attempted at a dangerous time of the year for sailing (cf. Acts 27:1,4,7,9,10,14). Usually November-February was the most dangerous time to travel, with a two to three week marginal period before and after. The regular grain shipments to Rome took ten to fourteen days, but because of the wind direction the return could take sixty days.


D. There are three different, possibly four, ships mentioned in this passage

1. a coastal ship which stopped at every port and hugged the coastline.

2. two Egyptian grain ships that ferried grain from Egypt to Italy

3. possibly a barge trip between Naples to a landing 43 miles south of Rome

 It is interesting to follow Luke's account of this voyage on a map of the Mediterranean.



÷ACTS 27:1-8

 1When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius. 2And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica. 3The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care. 4From there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus because the winds were contrary. 5When we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it. 7When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; 8and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

27:1 "When it was decided that we would sail for Italy" Festus sent them at a dangerous time of the year for sailing. The "we" refers to Paul and Luke (possibly others). Most of the "we" sections of Acts have a sailing component (cf. Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16).

▣ "some other prisoners" We do not know anything about them except they were imperial prisoners heading for Rome.

▣ "centurion" These men are always presented in positive terms in the NT (cf. Matthew 8; Luke 7; 23:47; Acts 10; and Paul's trials, Acts 21-28).

▣ "of the Augustan cohort" They were thought to be official couriers between Rome and the provinces (cf. W. M Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen, pp. 315, 348), but this is only undocumented supposition before Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138).

27:2 "an Adramyttian ship" This was a small coastal ship which stopped at every port. The home port of this ship was the seaport of Mysia in Asia Minor. This is the first stage of the long and dangerous trip to Rome.

▣ "Aristarchus" His home was in Thessalonica; possibly he was returning home (cf. Acts 19:29; 20:4; Col. 4:10; Philemon 24). He may have been accompanied by Secundas (cf. Acts 20:4 and some western Greek manuscripts of this verse).

27:3 "Sidon" This is a Phoenician city about sixty-seven miles north of Caesarea. It was the ancient capital of Phoenicia, but had long since been eclipsed by Tyre.

NASB   "with consideration"
NKJV, NRSV   "kindly"
TEV   "was kind"
NJB   "was considerate"
REB   "very considerately"
Peshitta   "with kindness"

This is a compound term from "love" (philos) and "humanity" (anthrōpos). The term is used twice in Acts, the NOUN in Acts 28:2 (cf. Titus 3:4) and the ADVERB here in Acts 27:3. Julius was a compassionate person (somewhat surprising for a Roman occupational soldier). He probably had heard about Paul's case.

▣ "his friends" This probably refers to the Christians there. Julius trusted Paul, but possibly a Roman guard went with him.

▣ "receive care" The text does not specify what kind of attention (emotional, physical, financial).

27:4 "under the shelter of Cyprus" This is a confusing phrase because it makes English readers think "south of Cyprus," but in reality, it meant north. The other names mentioned are on the southern and western coast of modern Turkey.

27:6 "Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy" This was a larger ship (276 people on board plus huge amounts of grain) from Egypt on her way to Rome. Moderns know of these large ships from pictures on the walls of Pompeii and from Lucian's writings, around A.D. 150. Myra was the major port for these large grain ships.

27:7 "Cnidus" This was a free maritime city on the southwest coast of the Roman province of Asia. Most Rome-bound ships used this port (cf. Thucydides, Hist. 8.35). It had two harbors because it was located on a peninsula.

▣ "Salmone" This was a city on the eastern tip of the island of Crete. Because of the time of the year they tried to work their way west by sailing close to the island.

27:8 "Fair Havens" This is a bay near the southern city of Lasea on Crete. It is not a harbor, but a bay. It would have been difficult to stay here all winter.

÷ACTS 27:9-12

 9When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them, 10and said to them, "Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives." 11But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul. 12Because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.

27:9 There were certain times of the year (winter months) when the rapid movement of storm fronts and wind directions made sailing dangerous in the Mediterranean.

▣ "the fast" This refers to the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16). It is the only fast day mentioned in the writings of Moses. This would make the voyage sometime between September and October. October was the marginal period for sea travel.

▣ "Paul began" This is an IMPERFECT TENSE which can refer to (1) continuous action in past time or (2) the beginning of an action. In context option #2 is best.

27:10 Paul issues a strong and specific warning. However, in reality, this did not occur. Was Paul giving his personal opinion ("I perceive"), or did God change His mind and decide to spare the people on board (cf. Acts 27:24)?

NASB   "the pilot and the captain"
NKJV   "the helmsman and the owner"
NRSV   "the pilot and the owner"
TEV, NJB, REB   "the captain and the owner"
Peshitta   "the master and owner"

This phrase denotes two separate people.

  1. the pilot (kubernētēs), which refers to the helmsman, the one who steers the ship (cf. Rev. 18:17)
  2. the captain (nauklēros, compound of "ship" [naus] and "to inherit" or "a lot" [klēros]), although the word could mean "ship owners" (cf. F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, p. 507, quotes Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler, p. 324, who quotes Inscriptiones Graecae, 14.918). Its use in the Koine Papyri is "captain." The exact difference between these two terms is uncertain (cf. Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, vol. 1, p. 548 vs. Harold Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, p. 275), but probably on a ship of this size (Alexandrian grain ship) there were several levels of leaders, as well as regular sailors.

27:12 "if" This is a FOURTH CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE which denotes a wish or prayer. Those who made the decision to sail knew it would be dangerous but thought they could make it.

▣ "Phoenix" This is a harbor on the southern shore of Crete, westward of Fair Havens. There is some doubt from ancient sources about its exact location (Strabo, Geography, 10.4.3 vs. Ptolemy, An Egyptian Geography 3.17.3). They were still sailing close to the shore along the southern coast of Crete.

▣ "facing southwest and northwest" Apparently at Phoenix there were two towns separated by a piece of land jutting into the sea. One harbor would be favorably related to winds from one direction and the other favorably related to winds from the other direction. The time of year determined which harbor was best.

÷ACTS 27:13-20

 13When a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore. 14But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; 15and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along. 16Running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship's boat under control. 17After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along. 18The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; 19and on the third day they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. 20Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.

NASB, NRSV, REB   "a violent wind"
NKJV   "a tempestuous wind"
TEV   "a very strong wind"
NJB, Peshitta   "a hurricane"

This Greek word is tuphōn (typhoon) + ikos (like). This was a sudden, very violent wind. It was probably intensified by the 7,000 foot mountains on Crete.

NASB   "Euraquico"
NKJV   "Euroclydon"
NRSV, TEV, REB   "the northeaster"
NJB   "the north-easter"
Peshitta   "Typhonic Euroclydon"

This was a special name the sailors had given for this type of wind during this season. It is made up of

  1. a Greek term, "east wind" (euros)
  2. a Latin term "north wind" (aquilo)

It was a strong, sudden northeast wind.

Because this became a technical nautical term (eukakulōn), it was misunderstood by later scribes who altered it in several ways to try to make the context make sense.

27:15 "could not face the wind" Ancient ships had eyes painted on each side of the bow. Later human or animal figures were placed on the bow (cf. Acts 28:11). Even today we personify ships as females. This phrase is literally "against" (anti) plus "eye" (ophthalmos). They could not head the ship into the wind.

27:16 "Clauda" This small island is about fifty miles off the southern coast of Crete. They were now helpless in the face of a strong northeastern wind. They took advantage of the brief shelter from the wind to do what they could to prepare the ship for rough seas.

There are several Greek manuscript variants as to the name of this island.

  1. Kauda, MSS P74, אi2, B
  2. Klauda, MSS א*, A
  3. Klaudēn, MSS H, L, P, and many later minuscule manuscripts
  4. Gaudēn, the Greek text used by Jerome
  5. Klaudion, some minuscule manuscripts

UBS3 and UBS4 give #1 a "B" rating (almost certain). The first two options may be the Greek form and the Latin form of the name.

Special Topic: Textual Criticism

▣ "to get the ship's boat under control" This refers to a smaller boat in tow (cf. Acts 27:30, 32). This trailing boat formed a drag which made it difficult to steer the larger ship.

27:17 "used supporting cables in undergirding the ship" This refers to wrapping special ropes around the hull to help hold it together in storms (cf. Aristotle, Rhetoric 2.5.18).

▣ "the shallows of Syrtis" These are moving sand bars off the coast of northern Africa. They were called Syrtis Major and Syrtis Minor (cf. Pliny, Nat. Hist. 5.4,27). They were the graveyard of many a sailing ship. To avoid the Syrtis Major the sailors steered the ship sideways, so as to drift slowly southward.

▣ "sea anchor" The key to properly interpreting this context is the term "lowered." What did they lower: (1) a sea anchor or (2) part of the sail? The purpose was to slow the ship down, but at the same time allow some control.

A sea anchor is not an anchor that gripped the bottom, but a parachute-like sheet which used the weight of the water it contained to slow down the ship from drifting southward (cf. old Latin text and NASB, NRSV, and NJB).

There are several English translations which translate this as "lower the sail" (cf. NKJV, TEV, NJB, and Peshitta in English). The Greek term literally means "a thing" (cf. Louw & Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, vol. 2, p. 223) and must be interpreted in light of a specific context. There are several specific papyrii texts which use it for a sail (cf. Moulton & Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 577). If so, they lower part of the sails but not all of them. They had to retain some control and attempt to travel sideways as slowly as possible.

27:18-19 This shows how violent and dangerous this storm seemed to these seasoned sailors (cf. Acts 20).

27:18 "jettison the cargo" This act shows that these sailors were truly afraid for their lives.

27:19 "the ship's tackle" Exactly to what this refers is unknown, possibly the main sail and its rigging. The term is ambiguous. This very same term refers to the sea-anchor, or part of the sails, in Acts 27:17.

27:20 "neither sun nor stars appeared for many days" This phrase apparently reveals that they had no clue as to where they were. They were afraid of the coast of north Africa, but they could not tell how close they were (cf. Acts 27:29). Without stars or the sun they could not navigate or discern their position.

▣ "from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned" This sets the stage for Paul's encouragement based on his previous vision (cf. Acts 27:21-26). Their resources were gone!

÷ACTS 27:21-26

 21When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, "Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss. 22Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, 24 saying, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.' 25Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. 26"But we must run aground on a certain island."

27:21 "they had gone a long time without food" There are at least three possible meanings in relation to Acts 27:33:

  1. maybe they were seasick from the violent, protracted storm
  2. they were praying and fasting for the religious purpose of being spared (i.e., pagan ritual, cf. Acts 27:29)
  3. they were so busy trying to save the ship, eating became a lesser issue

▣ "you ought to have followed my advice" This is Paul's "I told you so!" It provided Paul the opportunity to act as the Spirit's spokesman.

27:22 "but only of the ship" Notice the use of dei in Acts 27:26. See full note on dei at Acts 1:16. It is used three times in this chapter (Acts 27:21,24,26).

27:23 "an angel of the God" Several times Jesus or an angel appeared to Paul to encourage him (cf. Acts 18:9-10; 22:17-19; 23:11; 27:23-24). God had an evangelistic plan and purpose for Paul's life (cf. Acts 27:26; 9:15) and a storm was not going to stop it.

27:24 "Do not be afraid, Paul" This is a PRESENT MIDDLE (deponent) IMPERATIVE with the NEGATIVE PARTICLE which usually means stop an act already in process (cf. Acts 23:11; Pro. 3:5-6).

▣ "God has granted you all those who are sailing with you" This first VERB is a PERFECT MIDDLE (deponent) INDICATIVE. God had a plan and purpose for Paul's ministry (cf. Acts 9:15; 19:21; 23:11). He must (dei) witness in Rome before her governmental and military leaders.

Paul's life and faith impacted the destiny of his companions. This same extension of grace can be seen in Deut. 5:10; 7:9; 1 Cor. 7:14. This does not remove personal responsibility, but accentuates the potential influence of believing family, friends, and co-workers.

27:25 Paul's admonition of Acts 27:22, "to keep up your courage," a PRESENT INFINITIVE, is repeated, "keep up your courage," which is a PRESENT ACTIVE IMPERATIVE.

▣ "for I believe God" Paul's encounter with the living Christ enabled him to trust God's word ("it will turn out exactly as I have been told" PERFECT PASSIVE INDICATIVE). Faith is the hand that receives the gifts of God—not only salvation, but providence.

Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament has a great statement and quote from Romaine, Life of Faith.

"We now approach the N.T. with a clear distinction between faith on the one hand, and trust and hope on the other. Faith is the taking God at His word, while trust and patience and also hope are the proper fruits of faith, manifesting in various forms the confidence which the believer feels. A message comes to me from the Author of my existence; it may be a threat, a promise, or a command. If I take is as 'yea and amen,' that is Faith; and the act which results is an act of amunah or faithfulness God. Faith, according to Scripture, seems to imply a word, message, or revelation. So the learned Romaine says in his Life of Faith:—'Faith signifies believing the truth of the Word of God; it relates to some word spoken or to some promise made by Him, and it expresses the belief which a person who hears it has of its being true; he assents to it, relies upon it, and acts accordingly: this is faith.' Its fruit will vary according to the nature of the message received, and according to the circumstances of the receiver. It led Noah to build an ark, Abraham to offer up his son, Moses to refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, the Israelites to march round the walls of Jericho. I believe God that it shall be even as it has been told me—this is a picture of the process which the Bible calls faith" (pp. 104-105).

For "believe" see Special Topic: Faith, Believe, or Trust

÷ACTS 27:27-32

 27But when the fourteenth night came, as we were being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land. 28They took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29Fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. 30But as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship and had let down the ship's boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, 31Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, "Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved." 32Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship's boat and let it fall away.

27:27 "the fourteenth night" This time fits exactly the distance covered in their drifting configuration (i.e., sea anchor). They traveled 476 miles at 36 miles per 24-hour period.

▣ "Adriatic Sea" This refers to the south central Mediterranean (Adria). It does not refer to the Adriatic Sea of our day.

▣ "began to surmise that they were approaching some land" They possibly heard the breakers or saw certain birds or fish.

27:28 "sounding" This is from the VERB that means "to heave the lead," which refers to dropping a weighted rope, marked to denote the depth of the water.

▣ "fathom" This was the space between the arms outstretched. It denoted the measurement used by sailors to express the depth of the water.

27:29 It was still dark. They did not know exactly where they were. They wanted to slow down or stop the ship's approach to land until they could see where the ship was heading.

27:30 These sailors were not men of faith. They would do whatever they could to save themselves.

27:31 There were some conditions (THIRD CLASS CONDITIONAL SENTENCE) connected to Paul's updated vision and God's promise.

▣ "saved" This is the OT sense of physical deliverance (cf. James 5:15). Knowing Paul, these sailors, soldiers, and fellow passengers also heard the gospel, which brings the NT sense of the term spiritual salvation. What a tragedy to be saved from physical death to die an eternal death!

Special Topic: Salvation (OT)

÷ACTS 27:33-38

 33Until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. 34Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish." 35Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat. 36All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food. 37All of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons. 38When they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea.

27:34 "not a hair from the head of any of you will perish" Paul uses words similar to Jesus' words (cf. Luke 12:7; 21:18). This was a Hebrew idiom of protection (cf. 1 Sam. 14:45; 2 Sam. 14:11; 1 Kgs. 1:52).

27:35 This does not refer to the Lord's Supper, but it does show Paul's faith, even in the midst of crisis. Paul's faith influenced others (cf. Acts 27:36).

27:37 "two hundred and seventy-six" This includes crew and passengers.

  1. Manuscript B (fourth century) has "76"
  2. MSS א (fourth century) and C (fifth century) have "276"
  3. Manuscript A (fifth century) has "275"
  4. All modern English translations have 276

UBS4 gives it a "B" rating (almost certain).

Special Topic: Textual Criticism

27:38 This was a large grain ship from Egypt. They had already thrown overboard all other cargo and rigging (cf. Acts 27:18).

÷ACTS 27:39-44

 39When day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. 40And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach. 41But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. 42The soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim away and escape; 43but the centurion, wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44and the rest should follow, some on planks, and others on various things from the ship. And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land.

27:39 They could still control the ship to some degree (cf. Acts 27:40).

There is a Greek manuscript variant related to "drive the ship onto it" (cf. MSS א, A, B2) and "land the ship safely" (cf. MSS B* and C). These two words sound very similar (exōsai vs. eksōsai). Ancient Greek manuscripts were often read by one and copied by many. Similar sounding terms were often confused.

27:40 These reefs along the shore caused many a ship wreck. In this case a reef developed where the ocean waves and the bay waters met.

NASB, NKJV, NJB   "rudders"
NRSV, TEV   "steering-oars"
REB   "steering-paddles"

This refers to the dual rudders, which were typical on larger ships. James 3:4 uses this same word for "rudder."

▣ "the foresail" This is a rare term, but it must refer to a small sail on the bow (cf. Juvenal, Sat. 12.69).

27:42 "The soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners" If they escaped the soldiers would have had to bear their penalty!

27:43 Paul's words, faith, and actions had convinced the leader of the Roman contingent to trust him and protect him.



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Luke's account of Paul's sailing to Rome has many nautical technical terms. What is the implication of this?
  2. Why is Acts 27:20 so theologically significant?


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